June 18th, 2012
10:17 AM ET

China sends first female astronaut to space

CNN) - China made history Saturday when it launched a spacecraft sending the nation's first female astronaut in space.

The Shenzhou-9 launched Saturday afternoon, carrying Liu Yang and two male astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang. State media aired the launch held at a satellite center in Jiuquan.

Liu, 33, was the deputy head of a flight unit in the nation's air force, according to China's Xinhua news agency.

She is a veteran pilot with 1,680 hours of flying experience, and excelled in space testing after two years of training.

If all goes well, the Shenzhou-9 will dock with China's orbiting space laboratory, making the nation the third after the United States and Russia to complete a manned space docking.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket as seen Saturday in northwest China's Gansu province.

Participation of women in space will aid training, improve flight crew equipment and expand knowledge on the physical and psychological effects of space on women, said Wu Ping, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program.

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Filed under: In Space • News • People in Orbit
May 31st, 2012
08:55 AM ET

First private capsule to dock at space station begins return flight to Earth

The first private capsule to dock at the International Space Station will return to Earth Thursday, nine days after it took off on its historic mission.

The capsule, known as Dragon, was released by the space station's robotic arm at 5:35 a.m. ET. A thruster burn a minute later pushed the spacecraft away from its host, according to SpaceX, the private company that built and operates the Dragon.

On Sunday, Dragon delivered to the space station more than 1,000 pounds of cargo, including food, clothing, computer equipment and supplies for science experiments and has been reloaded with everything from trash to scientific research and experimental samples.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space
May 25th, 2012
11:19 AM ET

Space station catches 'a Dragon by the tail'

A private spacecraft docked with the International Space Station on Friday, a milestone in a new era of commercial space flight.

The docking happened just before 10 a.m. ET, almost two hours later than planned, when the station's robotic arm captured the unmanned SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

A radar system aboard the unmanned SpaceX Dragon that measures distance to the station had picked up a different part of the space station, meaning it could not dock properly, NASA said.

"Looks like we caught a Dragon by the tail," astronaut Don Pettit said after capturing the capsule with the robotic arm, according to NASA.

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Filed under: In Space
May 22nd, 2012
03:32 AM ET

SpaceX's rocket blasts off, carrying capsule to space station

[Updated 4:18 am EDT] (CNN) - The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, early Tuesday carrying the first private spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

The company's Falcon 9 rocket - with its Dragon capsule filled with food, supplies and science experiments - is scheduled to blast off at 3:44 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The first attempt at launching the rocket was halted Saturday when a flight computer detected "high pressure in the engine 5 combustion chamber," according to the company.

"During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine," the company said in a statement Monday. "The failed valve was replaced on Saturday, and after thorough analysis, the vehicle has been cleared for launch."

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Filed under: In Space
Solar eclipse projects 'ring of fire' across Asia and U.S.
May 21st, 2012
12:31 PM ET

Solar eclipse projects 'ring of fire' across Asia and U.S.

The shadow of the moon swept across the globe from Hong Kong to the Texas Panhandle as a rare annular solar eclipse began Monday morning in Asia and traversed the Pacific.

The sun appeared as a thin ring behind the moon to people in a narrow path along the center of the track, which began in southern China. Heavy clouds obscured the view in Hong Kong, but residents of Tokyo and other cities were able to get a spectacular view for about four minutes around 7:32 a.m. Monday (6:32 p.m. ET Sunday).

Events were held at schools and museums in Japan, while many more people took in the unusual astronomical event at home or on street corners.

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Filed under: In Space • the Sun
Space shuttle Enterprise flies again
NASA flew the space shuttle Enterprise from Washington to New York.
April 27th, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Space shuttle Enterprise flies again

The space shuttle Enterprise landed Friday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Enterprise swooped across the New York City skyline, mounted atop a 747 jumbo jet.

The shuttle took off from Virginia's Dulles International Airport, with a flight plan that included fly-bys of the Statue of Liberty and other Gotham landmarks. It is ultimately bound for it's new home at the city's Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum.

The space agency said it will put the shuttle on a barge in a few weeks and float it up the Hudson River to its final home.

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Filed under: On Earth
Satellite documents thinning ice shelf
April 5th, 2012
05:46 PM ET

Satellite documents thinning ice shelf

A European satellite has observed a rapid retreat of one of Antarctica's ice shelves, which is half the size it was 10 years ago, the European Space Agency said Thursday.

The agency's Envisat satellite shows part of the Larsen Ice Shelf, which lies on a peninsula south of Chile, has decreased from 3,463 square kilometers (1,337 square miles) in March 2002 to 1,670 square kilometers (645 square miles) today, a change the European Space Agency blames on warmer temperatures.

"Ice shelves are sensitive to atmospheric warming and to changes in ocean currents and temperatures," Helmut Rott from the University of Innsbruck said in an statement from the space agency. "The northern Antarctic Peninsula has been subject to atmospheric warming of about 2.5 degrees Celsius (36.5 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last 50 years - a much stronger warming trend than on global average, causing retreat and disintegration of ice shelves."

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Filed under: Global Warming • On Earth
ISS astronauts take shelter from space junk
Six astronauts took shelter in escape capsules when orbiting junk threatened the international space station.
March 24th, 2012
08:25 AM ET

ISS astronauts take shelter from space junk

A piece of a debris from a Russian Cosmos satellite passed close enough to the international space station on Saturday that its crew was ordered into escape capsules as a precaution, NASA said.

The six crew members were told to take shelter late Friday in their Soyuz capsules after it was determined there was a small possibility the debris could hit the station, the U.S. space agency said in a statement.

NASA said it began tracking the debris early Friday morning but only decided to take the precautionary steps after an analysis showed a slight possibility of hitting the space station.

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Filed under: Hardware in Orbit • In Space
NASA orbiter gives glimpse of moon's far side
The GRAIL mission's Ebb spacecraft took this picture of the south pole of the far side of the moon.
February 2nd, 2012
10:09 AM ET

NASA orbiter gives glimpse of moon's far side

(CNN) - A NASA orbiter has beamed back its first images of the far side of the moon, including scenes of a massive crater caused by an ancient cosmic impact, the space agency announced Wednesday.

NASA released 30 seconds of video from one of the twin probes that arrived in lunar orbit on December 31 and January 1. The Ebb orbiter passed over the moon from its north to south poles, revealing a new view of the Mare Orientale, a 560-mile basin along the border between the near and far sides of the satellite.

Also visible was the smaller Drygalski crater near the lunar south pole, which has a star-shaped peak at its center from what NASA says was a comet or asteroid impact.
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Filed under: In Space • News
Space Station crew can stay put despite debris
November 23rd, 2011
09:37 AM ET

Space Station crew can stay put despite debris

A piece of debris hurling through space no longer presents enough of a threat to force the International Space Station crew to move, NASA said late Tuesday.

"NASA flight controllers downgraded conjunction threat," the agency announced on its official Twitter feed. "No need to shelter in place required on space station."

Earlier, NASA had said the crew would shelter in place, meaning the three crew members would move into the Soyuz vehicle attached to the space station.

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